H-E-B donated 427 red bags filled with fresh produce outside the Pre-K 4 SA South campus on Friday afternoon. The bags were distributed to families picking up their children, as the students left for a two-week holiday break.
“This is going to be helpful, “ said Estella White, the mother of a Pre-K 4 SA student. “It’s less things I have to buy.”
H-E-B donated 1,700 bags in total, and distributed them to four Pre-K 4 SA centers throughout the city. Each bag contained a combination of familiar items and less common produce. Several affordable and nutrient-dense ingredients, such as cabbage, were added to the bags. The new items will encourage families to experiment with foods and flavors, and hopefully add them to their grocery lists in the future, said Julie Bedingfield, H-E-B Public Affairs.
The donated produce was ordered specifically for Pre-K 4 SA, otherwise it would be on the store's shelves. Bedingfield hopes the produce will supplement the treats and delicious meals characteristic of the holiday season.
“We want to make sure that when (the children) are gone from school for two weeks, where they know they have two meals a day, we are sending food home with them in hopes that it supplements whatever they may be eating at home – whether it’s bountiful or not,” she said.
The program tries to include fresh produce in each of the two meals offered during the school day, said Kathy Bruck, CEO, Pre-K 4 SA. Additionally, they have a bimonthly farmer’s market that allows parents to stock up on fresh produce at a reduced price.
“A lot of our parents can’t afford fresh produce,” Bruck said. “What happens with a lot of low-income families, as with any parent, is that they want Christmas to be special for the child. They want to get nice toys under the tree, but those things cost a lot. So something has to go because their budgets are really tight. What ends up being sacrificed are things like fresh produce.”
City Councilwoman Rebecca Viagran (D3) passed out bags to families outside the Pre-K 4 SA South Center alongside Bruck.
“(The parents) have plenty of other stuff to worry about and to stress over, and this is going to be one less thing,” Viagran said. "Now they are going to spend more time with their kids over the break."
After being handed a bag, Marisa Ramirez and her daughter headed to their car. As the four year-old reached inside for an orange, Ramirez said the produce would come in handy when cooking Christmas dinner.
“I wasn’t expecting this at all,” Ramirez said. “It was a really great surprise. We will definitely use this. (My daughter) loves all vegetables, so I will probably make a chicken soup.”
Another mother, Naomi Nava, had the same idea. She peered into the bag, and said she may cook up a vegetable soup, or a meatloaf with chopped vegetables hidden inside to fool her kids.
“That is a dinner,” Nava said, pointing to the produce in the bag. “That is a dinner for our whole family tonight.”
*Top Image: A parent holds her sons hand after receiving a bag of produce as Councilwoman Rebecca Viagran (D3) looks on. Photo by Scott Ball.